As the conversation naturally drifted from wine to its best friend food at Neyers, we were told that we had to visit La Luna for lunch that day on our way to the next winery. Apparently our cheese and bread weren’t going to cut it after chatting about everything we liked to eat. I’m voting this the hidden gem of the trip, it was completely unexpected and absolutely delicious. Tucked away in the back of a nondescript mini-mart style building, we arrived just in time before the lunch line piled up to order our tacos. Al pastor, carne asada, lengua, and carnitas were on the menu for The Colonel and I and we weren’t let down by a single meaty, juicy, perfectly seasoned bite. Ridiculously priced at $1.75 each, we stuffed our faces with our cheapest and most authentic meal of the trip. If you go to Napa and you enjoy food you need to go here, period.
This was a great find, compliments of Ian from Wine Library. Definitely tucked away off the beaten, dusty, impossibly curvy path, you literally have to drive off the road to get here. We arrived early and were treated to some water and a seat on the terrace where the views were not quite as expansive as some of the other vineyards (we were in a valley after all) but we were pleasantly entertained by some lizards running around and seeing a group of ladies leaving, arms full of wine and clearly having a great time. Expect an intimate tasting, it was us, a couple stools, some great conversation and a bunch of great wines. We heard the owners’ story (always neat to hear when it’s actually an interesting story) and tried some unique wines considering where we were (such as mourvedre). This was an excellent tasting and we went home with a bottle of chard and mourvedre. Appointment only, very low key and focused on the wine.
When you arrived at Phelps you could tell you were pulling up to a large, commercial vineyard. It was a serious driveway entering the property (some of them you could have just as easily pulled into someone’s personal driveway instead of up to the winery, which we may or may not have done on this trip…) but you knew you were approaching a big production. The grounds were truly impressive, and the view was spectacular, but don’t expect that up close and personal tour that we received at other vineyards. We chose the terrace tasting option and were ushered to the outside terrace area for the actual tasting itself. Everyone was pleasant, and you could easily go through this one without talking to anyone or learning about any of the wines. We tasted a couple chardonnays, a sauvignon blanc, a couple very nice cabs, and a delightful take on eiswein (Eisrébe). Instead of the grapes naturally freezing they artificially freeze them after harvest to create the sweet, concentrated flavor. We split the tasting (I love that they give you that option – not unique to Phelps) and found it to be a good value for the variety of wines we tasted. The staff was knowledgeable and helpful if you could carve out a few minutes to speak with them. Walked away from this one seriously contemplating an expensive bottle of cab, but settled on a bottle of Eisrébe. Appointment only, self-paced, not super relaxing but still a nice overall experience.
This was the last tasting we had scheduled for the trip on the day we met up with friends. It was unfortunate because quite frankly the experience here sucked. It was somewhat commercial, not at all personal, bordering rude. Took them a while to find the appointment (no problem, it’s busy, that’s a good sign, right?) and we stayed indoors at the bar area to hopefully chat about the wines. One of the family’s sons was pouring the wines (that’s cool too, figured we’d get to hear interesting tidbits) but the most interesting thing we learned was which son he was on the old family portrait. Guess what I didn’t want to learn about on this trip? Actually he didn’t even tell us, we overheard it while he was chatting with another couple. Every time we were poured a wine, the explanation was rehearsed, succinct, and I swear half of it was delivered over his shoulder as he was walking away from us. My abandonment issues aside, the one positive thing I’ll say about the tasting was that there was a water cooler in the corner where you could help yourself, so I may have drank about a gallon of water compliments of Baldacci while being ignored and trying to get rid of the bad taste the rest of the experience left in my mouth. I’ll admit we did purchase one wine, a 2007 cabernet that didn’t taste like your average cab from that year, but I was a tough sell, honestly I didn’t want to spend any more money there than we did on the tasting itself. Go if you want, maybe you’ll have a better time with a different brother but I won’t be going back there again. I don’t even know/care if it was appointment only, and we didn’t really check out the view past the 1983 Ferrari 308 GTS parked in the lot that The Colonel was drooling over.
This was the first stop of Grapestorm’s Napapalooza and they set the bar quite high. We arrived bleary eyed after the drive from San Francisco, and tired after we emerged from what we now know is called the marine layer (also known as the layer of clouds that appear as though someone just cut them at one point and said “San Francisco, you take all these clouds, everyone north of here enjoy a nice clear blue sky”). Anyways, after driving along an incredibly windy Rt. 128 to the vineyard, I thought I might be too queasy and windblown to enjoy any day drinking (weird, I know!) especially since I indulged The Colonel on an open-window drive to fully appreciate the sweet, sweet maneuvering of our reasonably priced midsized sedan rental car. From the second we walked in, we were greeted warmly, offered use of the restrooms (my hair and I were thankful for that), and most importantly, poured a glass sauvignon blanc. I can’t accurately say if I thought it was good wine or not, because it was so crisp and refreshing after the drive. I have to admit that we weren’t overwhelmed by any of the wines we tasted there (cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel blend, and the sauv blanc) but the experience of the tasting was difficult to match. We were able to tour the property, including watching wines being pressed, saying hi to a handful of the winemakers, and the best part easily was riding in an open-air buggy around the vineyard. Not only did we learn more about the wine making process, but we learned more about how the grapes are grown, tasted a few different varietals (Grenache won, hands down), not to mention we ate our way through the other fruits grown at the vineyard. It was an unexpectedly down to earth experience that caught us completely off guard, but it served as the sigh of relief you take when you finally realize that you’re on vacation, and it’s going to be awesome. Appointment only, gorgeous views, just be ready for the drive there.